28 May 2020

Key points

  • The UK Government has proposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people arriving in UK, although supervision will not be introduced.
  • Lockdowns are easing across Europe, and many governments anticipate there will be a tourism season this year in the south.
  • Reports from shipping companies state that exports of automotive exports from continental manufacturers was now rising, week-on-week.
  • Governments in Europe want renewable energy to benefit from any structural changes in power-generation markets. The UK Government is set to green-light UK’s largest solar farm.

Supply chain and logistics

  • Europe – One of Europe’s largest shipping companies, which operates in the Baltic and North Sea, reports that demand is rising.
  • Germany – Lufthansa is in advanced talks with the German Government over a €9 billion (A$9.9 billion) bailout that would see Germany take a 20% stake in the airline. Lufthansa says a deal would involve the government taking two seats on its supervisory board, but it would only exercise its full voting rights in exceptional circumstances, such as to protect the firm against a takeover.
  • Ireland, UK & France – The UK, French and Irish government have pledged to work together on temporary measures to ensure COVID-19 does not threaten vital freight routes between the countries.
  • Norway – A Chinese government entity is now among the largest shareholders of Norwegian Air, which is the fourth largest low-cost carrier in Europe. The airline skirted bankruptcy last week before a China Investment Corp subsidiary purchased nearly 13% of the airline.
  • UK – The government has signed agreements with six logistics operators to help ensure sufficient freight capacity for critical supply chains. The £35 million agreement will protect vital routes across the English Channel, the Straits of Dover, the North Sea and routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland whose commercial viability is at risk. The agreement will remain effective for nine weeks.

Agribusiness and food

  • EU – According to industry reports, approximately 50% of the beer market disappeared in Europe as lockdowns took effect. This has resulted in the temporary shutdown of its production facilities.
  • France – Facing a shortage of manpower in its agricultural sector, France will open its borders to temporary workers from Eastern Europe for the coming harvest season. Demand for labour typically rises by approximately 100,000 from May to June.
  • Irish Republic – The Dublin-based food manufacturer Greencore – one of the UK’s largest private label suppliers – has seen sales drop by around 40% with a slump in demand for food-to-go. The firm has temporarily ceased production at three factories.
  • UK – One UK household name in bakery – Mr Kipling – has reported exceptional demand for its cakes since the lockdown commenced, with sales rising 15% in January along. The firm continues to hold #1 and #2 spots for branded cakes in Australia with Coles and Woolworths.
  • UK – The UK’s proposed 14-day arrivals quarantine policy has attracted concern from the UK’s Food & Drink Federation. The lobby group says the quarantine would cut off expertise needed to maintain the specialist machinery and equipment used in UK factories, possibly leading to factory/line closures and food shortages.

Healthcare

  • Switzerland – Drugmakers racing to make COVID-19 vaccines and therapies seek specialised manufacturers that can scale up production to billions of doses. Lonza expects to produce initial commercial volumes in New Hampshire in December, followed by a location in Visp, Switzerland, in February. Each facility could make up to 100 million doses per year.
  • Germany – Unlisted biotech, CureVac, says its experimental coronavirus vaccine triggers an immune response in animals when given a low dose. The company wants to start human trials in June. SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp has an 80%+ stake in CurVac.
  • Germany – The German government has passed a new law to extend testing for the corona virus. In the future, more tests will be carried out among at-risk communities, i.e. hospitals and nursing homes, and their respective workforces.
  • Germany – The German government has amended its Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (AWV). In future, there will be a notification requirement if companies from countries outside the European Union want to acquire shares of more than 10 percent in German companies that develop or manufacture vaccines, pharmaceuticals or protective equipment such as mouth-nose masks or respirators.
  • UK – The UK’s lockdown reversal roadmap may include increased use of tele-medicine and remote monitoring.

Technology

  • Poland – Microsoft has announced an investment plan worth $1 billion to accelerate innovation and digital transformation for the development of a Polish Digital Valley. The plan includes a new Microsoft data centre region in Poland, and a new National Cloud Operator. The plan envisages long-term investments in qualifications, support for digital transformation and access to the latest cloud computing technologies.
  • UK – Independent app creators have agreed to work openly with the NHS to create one or more COVID-19-tracing apps. They will aligned their products and data as part of this central, national effort.

Energy

  • Italy – The Government’s stimulus package includes a 110% tax deduction over 10 years for investments into private homes’ energy efficiency. Other areas included in the package are upgrades to buildings’ seismic resilience, safety and access, and green areas. The vast majority of Italy’s buildings date from the economic boom of the 50s and 60s.
  • UK – Proposals for Britain’s largest solar farm, capable of generating enough clean electricity to power 91,000 homes, is poised to receive ministerial approval this week. Renewable energy is considered to be key to the UK’s plans to build a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

Mining and resources

  • Poland – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases among miners increased on Friday to over 3,200. The latest outbreak was in the Zofiówka mine (JSW) where testing has confirmed almost one hundred new cases.

Manufacturing, inc. defence and advanced manufacturing)

  • Europe – Car sales in the EU plummeted 76 percent in April, according to the European manufacturers' association ACEA. Both production and trading were at a virtual standstill during the initial stages of the lockdown. Italy and Spain were hardest hit, with sales down around 97%. In France, new registrations fell 89%, and by 61% in Germany.
  • France – President Macron will present a stimulus plan for the car manufacturing industry. The plan will include subsidies for electric and hybrid cars, as well as new conditions for the relocation of production. Renault is likely to restructure operations at four sites.
  • Israel – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is developing a robotic system to rapidly sterilize passenger aircraft using powerful UV light technology. According to IAI, the system is faster than traditional interior cabin cleaning and it sterilizes upholstery.
  • Poland – The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles factory in Tychy (Silesia) with 2,200 workers will continue to suspend production until May 31st. The current extension will likely be the last.

International education

  • Europe – Some European universities are now advising they are likely to continue with online learning for the first semester of the new European academic year through to February 2021.Others instead are aiming to accommodate students on campus or offer a blended learning option with a mix of on-campus and remote learning.
  • Europe – The 2020 EAIE Conference, the largest education conference in Europe, scheduled to be held in Barcelona in October will no longer take place. It will be replaced instead with an alternative online event to be held during the same dates.
  • UK – Cambridge University says lectures will be held online until the summer of 2021, though traditional face-to-face tutorials may continue so long as social distancing protocols apply. The university says the policy will be reviewed if advice on social distancing changes. Other UK universities will likely follow suit.
  • Russia – Following recent public discussion of challenges caused by COVID-19, Russian senators submitted a bill on distance education to the State Duma. The document is focused on regulation of the on-line education sector in schools and higher education institutions.

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